The Tragedy of Edward II is the only history play written by Christopher Marlowe, and one of the earliest English history plays ever written. Marlowe tells the story of King Edward’s affection and rumored love affair with Piers Gaveston, an attendant in the royal household, exiled by Edward’s father for his influence over the young royal. When Edward II’s father dies, Gaveston returns, only to be banished again by the barons of England who see Gaveston as a threat to the stability and integrity of the throne. King Edward is despondent without Gaveston and desperate to have him back, which leaves the barons only one option: Kill Gaveston. Guided by Edward’s Queen Isabella, the She-Wolf of France, the barons undertake a campaign to return England to prosperity. But getting rid of Gaveston is only the beginning--after the Battle of Boroughbridge, the lines are drawn and the nobles of England must take sides. Are they in support of Edward II and his rule? Or will they join Queen Isabella and Prince Edward in claiming the crown? As one noble declares: “You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute, And now and then stab as occasion serves.” In Edward II, the play that established a genre for others (including Shakespeare) to follow, Marlowe creates complicated and compelling characters in a power struggle for the ages.
The Tragedy of Edward II guide sections